Girls and Advertising: Why You Should Sign The Self Esteem Act Petition

by Seth Matlins

Walking down the hall I heard our 5 year-old daughter shout, "If I only had a different

bodyself esteem everything would be fine!"

It turns out she wasn't talking about herself but a PollyPocket doll whose head wasn't cooperating.  While that was a relief, that it was so easy to imagine that, even at five, she might have been talking about herself seems evidence of a bigger social problem.

This problem is brought to life by statistics like 42% of girls in grades 1-3 want to be thinner, 53% of 13 year-old girls and 78% of 17 year-olds are unhappy with their bodies, and 80% of women feel worse about themselves after seeing a beauty ad.  
And yet no one's talking about these numbers nor their consequences. 

Clearly there's an epidemic crisis of self-esteem affecting our girls (and women), that's going largely ignored by the mainstream.  Not only ignored, but fed into by the $20B spent on beauty marketing in the US annually.  That's a lot of money being spent making women feel worse about themselves through photoshopped and airbrushed photos of women made to look “perfect” when we all know, thought don't always feel, that’s an impossible standard for anyone to live up to, no matter what lip gloss, eyeliner, shirt, shoes or bag you wear.     

The old adage, “It takes a village to raise a child” is true, but knowing that the village is filled with magazines, websites, television and film that are rampantly advertising and pushing images out in front of society, we as parents need to do everything we can to ensure our children feel good about themselves, that they accept who they are, strive for who and what they can become, and speak their truths however big or small they may be.

The responsibility is ours individually and as a society.  We can talk to our children at the dinner table about what they have seen or been exposed to and try and help them work out their feelings by encouraging continual expression. We can even try and limit what they read and see at home but we simply can’t shield them all of the time.

That's why my wife and I proposed The Self-Esteem Act, or as we like to refer to it around the dinner table, TSEA.  When made into law, the Act would require that any advertisement or editorial that has meaningfully altered the human form by photoshopping or airbrushing (by meaningful, we mean changed its shape, size, color, removed or added inches or pounds) carry a “Truth In Advertising” label, that says something as simple as “This Model Was Digitally Enhanced.”

We're not making any moral judgments nor asking any industry to stop the practice nor do we think advertisers or editors are villains.  In fact, we think they can be the heroes of this story, helping those who can’t discern between what’s real and not, just by being transparent.  Photoshop all you want…just tell us you did so – That’s it.

To be clear, we don’t think TSEA is neither a panacea nor a cure for all that ails our girls (or boys, who aren't immune from these influences either).  It’s a just a step in the right direction, and one we can’t see any downside in.

We hope you’ll support TSEA.  Me, I’m going to go throw out all our PollyPockets.  I can’t handle the stress.


To support the Act and our girls, sign the petition

Seth Matlins is a father of two and founder of Off Our Chests.